Re: oh crap bubba wired my gauges!!??
If the old meter was an ammeter, its scale would look like 50-0-50 with needle in the middle with the car in the OFF condition - no doors open, no acc, dead.
Ammeters show the amount of currrent through the circuit. Current passes through the gauge using large gauge wire. Take the ammeter out of the circuit, the power flow is interrupted.
Voltmeters show the volts of the circuit/electrical system - the potential/pressure of the current using thin gauge wire because there is no current except for the few milliamperes t move the needle to indicate. Generally has a scale from 8-16. They are used to monitor voltage at any one point, usually after the ignition switch or accessory position. They are hooked to the circuit and the other post is referenced to ground.
By removing the ammeter and installing the voltmeter in place, won't work, as you've seen. Ammeters installed in older cars & trucks were used to monitor the battery condition, when batteries started to fail, it took more current for a longer time to recharge. Also, it showed the amount of current being used by the electrical system when the alternator was not recharging, and it is by design, simply because other accessories were on, headlamps, heater blower, wipers, and engine idling, and a 37 amp output alt could not keep up, the battery supplied the 'make-up' current. At higher rpms, alternator output more current and battery got recharged. Then the 10SI alternator came out.
If you were to install the ammeter and turn on the lamps/lights, you would see the ammeter go to the left showing a discharge from the battery. I would suspect Bubba wired the ammeter over by the horn relay buss bar. You'll find one wire butt connected to a red wire (I hope its soldered) - goes to battery? - and another wire mounted in place on the buss bar.
Your voltmeter, As Dennis suggests, can be connected to the IGN or ACC spade on the fuse panel and the other lead of voltmeter to a good ground. You really don't want to connect it to the ammeter connections as the voltmeter will indicate voltage all the time. However, with gauge technology today, it would probably take a couple months or so for the battery to become dead where years ago, it would take a couple days.
But yes, I would do the experiment Dennis suggests and go from there. Finding a manual with a car's diagram would be beneficial. PM me with your address and I'll see if I can seek a few wiring scans past IT dept and send them to you.
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